A look at
Minonk's past
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A night to remember

by Chuck Warwick

Chuck Warwick was Principal at MDR High School from 1952-1957. He is retired and living in Urbana. To learn more about Mr. Warwick, click here.
In the summer of 1953, after fighting polio for nine months at two different hospitals, my wife Betty returned home to her two sons Charlie, age 4, Mark, age 2, and her husband Chuck. In the beginning, she had help during the day with household chores and childcare while her hubby was at work. Gradually, but surely, with great tenacity and creativity, Betty became an independent mother, wife, housekeeper, cook, and chauffer.

What were some examples of Betty's creativity? For one thing, she did not have the strength to raise her arms above her head. When she needed access to the cupboards in the kitchen, shoulder high or above, she would grasp her right wrist with her left hand. She would then make her right hand crawl up to the cupboard handle, open the cupboard door, and got whatever item she needed. It took a while, but Betty was eventually able to stand up from a sitting position. To accomplish this, she had to be within touching distance to a firm object like a wall shelf higher than the chair she was sitting in. Again, utilizing her hand crawling technique, she would grasp the ledge of the shelf and pull herself to her feet. Then she would grab her nearby crutches. With the aid of her crutches and leg braces, she could slowly make her way through the house. Fortunately, the boys were very cooperative in staying out of Mom's way when she was on her feet.

Soon, Mom could walk out of the house to our car in the driveway. Naturally, the next step was for Betty to drive again. We took the bull by the horns and bought a new auto with power steering, power brakes, and directional signals. I would drive Betty and the boys to the country. Betty then took over and cautiously tried to drive. It was just a matter of time until she had gained enough confidence to take the State of Illinois driver's test. She passed with flying colors and received her driver's license with no restrictions whatsoever. On the other hand, I was not permitted to drive without my glasses. Betty and I enjoyed a good laugh together about the State's conclusion that I was more handicapped than she was.

Although we were rapidly returning to normalcy in our day-by-day activities, family recreational pursuits were still quite limited. Then we came up with a great idea. We began going to drive-in movies. A half hour before dark, we would get ready for our 20-mile drive from our home in Minonk to the nearest drive-in theatre located in Streator. We would dress the kids for bed and put blankets and pillows in the back seat for them. Although, they always received a treat from the concession stand upon arrival at the drive-in theater, they always fell asleep while the movie was in progress. Because Betty did not want to go through the get-ready-for bed routine after coming back to Minonk late at night, she put on her nightgown, slippers, and robe before we left the house. I was the only one who was conventionally dressed for an evening at the movies.

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For quite a while, we went through the drive-in-movie routine without incident. Unfortunately, that state of affairs was about to change. On this particular evening, we had a flat tire about halfway to Streator. Luckily, this misfortune occurred on a lightly traveled country road. In ten minutes or so, I was able to change the tire. This omen might have told us to turn around and go home. However, we figured that we could still reach our destination before the main feature started. So why not go ahead?

We got to the theater without any more problems. After the movie, we started home. Oops! Our car died at an intersection in downtown Streator. Two good Samaritans pushed our car to a nearby gas station, which was still open.

The station attendant explained, "Mister, we're about to close, but we'll be happy to take care of your car first thing in the morning."

"That's fine, but what am I supposed to do with my family until tomorrow morning? We live in Minonk."

"No problem. There is a hotel across the street. You can stay there for the night. I promise you we'll have you on the road early in the morning."

I felt an elbow in my ribs and Betty whispered in my ear, "We can't go to that hotel! I'm not dressed!"

I turned my head to the attendant. "Look we've got to get back home tonight. Can't you get us started again? We'll get our car fixed tomorrow back home."

"All right. I think I can get you started. But I must warn you. If you stop the car for a traffic light or stop sign, your car will die again. Do you really want to take that chance?"

"Please just get the car started."

In a few minutes, we were on the road headed for home. We were very lucky. No cop caught us driving through a red light. No cars got in our way as we went through intersections in Streator or through stop signs on country roads. At last we pulled into our driveway. Of course, our car died, but we were home. Separately, I carried our two sleeping children to their beds. I made one more trip to the car and helped my better half into the house. Thankfully, our wild evening had finally ended.